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Game Info:

Genshin Impact
Developed By: miHoYo
Published By: miHoYo
Released: Sep 28, 2020 (Android, iOS, Windows, PlayStation 4); Nov 11, 2020 (PS5); 2021 (Switch)
Available On: Android, iOS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, Windows
Genre: Action Role-Playing
ESRB Rating: T for Teen: Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence
Number of Players: Up to four players (with crossplay and cross-save progression)
Price: Free to Play

Anyone who’s been consuming Asian media or even video games in general over the past month has probably heard of Genshin Impact in some capacity at this point—and there could be many reasons as to why. Whether that is because it is one of the few high-budget, Chinese-created games to release worldwide, the numerous (unfair) comparisons to Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the fact that it made back its $100 million budget within three weeks, or that it’s an “anime game” without actually being from Japan. Either way, Genshin Impact has made its, uh, "impact" on the video game scene—for better and for worse.

The company miHoYo has been around for quite some time and have seen previous success through their titles such as Honkai Impact 3rd. As a company, they’ve stuck mostly to mobile gaming but with their latest release, they are trying to break more into the PC and console markets. Like some of miHoYo’s previous releases, Genshin Impact utilizes a gacha monetization system. Gachas are very common in the mobile market while being scarce in the PC and console markets. The system takes inspiration from capsule-toy vending machines where you use a form of currency to roll some kind of good. Of course, all the goods people actually want are very rare to get, many of which have a less than 1% chance of actually being obtained.

So what is Genshin Impact in the first place? It is an open-world action role-playing game by the aforementioned miHoYo. The main plot is that two twins named Aether and Lumine (referred to in the narrative as the Traveler) face off against this unnamed goddess. After being bested by said goddess, you have the option of choosing the male or female avatar. The chosen twin is banished, while the other is captured. After the Traveler finds themselves in Teyvat, they come across the adorably stupid Paimon. Paimon is a very interesting fairy-like creature as she states she is the only one of her kind in the world of Teyvat. After some time passes, the two decide to travel to the nearest city of Mondstadt in hopes of finding the Traveler’s missing twin.

From this point forward, the game is fairly open-ended, although in the beginning, it is best to follow the beaten path so that you can gain some levels as well as a few free characters. Genshin Impact has it so that your party is made up of a team of four and you can choose whomever you want as long as you have access to them. You can abandon the Traveler if it pleases you as even though they show up in story cutscenes, they are not required at all to progress through the game.

The world of Tevyat is massive, and that’s with only two of the planned seven regions out right now. There are mountains to climb, the sea to swim in, caves to maneuver through. It is all depicted in an anime-like aesthetic and the amount of detail in Tevyat shows that miHoYo’s budget didn’t go to waste. The draw distance is equally as large and does a fantastic job showing the sense of scale to the world. Mondstadt takes inspiration from Germany and other Central European countries, so the European-styled buildings come as no surprise. Mondstadt is mostly woodland with cliffsides and mountains spread out. Mondstadt takes quite a bit of time to explore, so, surprisingly, it turns out the region of Liyue is about twice as big as Mondstadt. Liyue itself takes inspiration from China and of course, with the developers being Chinese, Liyue looks way more impressive with its beautifully articulate buildings and expansive mountains.

Not only do you level up your characters normally, but there is also an overall Adventure Rank as well. The Adventure Rank (or AR) increases with almost every task you do, from completing quests or daily commissions, conquering domains, to even simply opening chests. Domains, in particular, act as the dungeons and gauntlets where they can be as simple as one room of enemies or multiple areas with puzzles. AR is your means of accessing much of the game’s content as certain story quests need a certain AR to access, and increasing your AR by certain levels also increases your World Rank, which increases the enemy levels while granting you higher ranked materials and items. Exploring is exhilarating because your character can climb almost everything. Trying to wrack your brain around climbing a mountain with the limited amount of stamina you have and then actually accomplishing it is exquisite. And it’s rewarding too because you’ll either find a chest which grants you items and AR experience, a point where you can fast travel later, or even a new domain.

Progressing is pretty fast and fluid for the most part. It is encouraged to explore the world as story quests are locked behind your Adventure Rank. The problems start to arise when you reach around AR 30 or 31 and progression starts slowing down. Story quests start drying up; you’ll most likely have reached every landmark so AR experience becomes scarce, and resources start running out. This is where “the wall” hits and at this point you’ll have to resort to grinding. Leveling up characters after a certain point also doesn't feel wholly rewarding either as after a while characters start to require tens or hundreds of thousands of experience in the later levels. The biggest enemies only drop EXP in the double digits. However, the main purpose of defeating enemies is to obtain materials used to rank-up your characters so there is equal importance of defeating enemies as there is exploring the regions. The main method of leveling up comes from experience items obtained by various methods such as completing quests or events. The accumulation of said materials tend to become more scarce the more you increase your AR. If you spend too many of them leveling up a large cast of characters, you may find the World Rank starting to become overwhelming as you quickly fall behind.

Genshin Impact
Highlights:

Strong Points: Massive open world that holds many secrets; clean and colorful art style; beautiful orchestral soundtrack; combat is smooth with a surprising amount of depth; exploration is very rewarding as it levels you up in some fashion
Weak Points: Hitting “the wall” is very apparent where progression screeches to a crawl; the multiplayer functions leave much to be desired; technically released in an “unfinished state” as two of the seven regions exist in a playable state 
Moral Warnings: Alcoholism; Teyvat participates in polytheism; aggressive flirtation from a few characters; one side quest deals with fratricide; some female characters show off their midrift, wear leggings and other form-fitting attire; gacha system shares many similarities with gambling; supernatural elements

I’m a sucker for orchestral soundtracks so they’re always high on my list. Most of the music is so calm and relaxing when exploring the world that I found myself humming to some of the pieces. In combat, the intensity of the music steps up, but never too much to alienate that sense of adventure. Liyue’s traditional Chinese-inspiried soundtrack, in particular, stands out over Mondstadt’s wind and percussion-based instrumentals. I'm assuming this has to do with miHoYo being a Chinese company and Liyue heavily based on Chinese culture. That isn’t to say the music of Mondstadt is bad—nowhere near the implication. Mondstadt still envokes an orchestrated tempo that wouldn't be out of place in many Central European locations.

The playable Mondstadt characters mostly have European-inspired names and clothing while Liyue’s characters have Chinese-inspired names and clothing. Each playable character has a distinct look from each other and that design also is incorporated in the character’s backstory and motivations. They simply don’t wear their garb just because it looks cool. The amount that goes into a character is pretty ridiculous. Each character has dozens of unique voice lines and multiple parts of a backstory that are unlocked through obtaining character EXP (which is separate from the traditional EXP). They all feel fleshed out and not simply as goods to be used. The extended backstories and voice lines do a great job of helping you connect further with your character of choice. Voices are available in English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. I play in English so I can say that the English cast is overall servicable. There are some unsatisfactory takes, but they're not on the level of bad dubbing that 70s, 80s, and many 90's era foreign properties that had the luxury of being imported to North America.

Combat is of course one of the main draws of ARPGs. Each character has a set playstyle. They either have a sword, claymore, bow and arrow, tomes, and polearms. Some weapon types have special attributes, such as the claymores being better against stone shields or when mining ores. There are also elements ranging from pyro, cryo, hydro, and electro—to more supportive elements such as anemo (wind) and geo. Every character has a set element, except for the Traveler, who can change their element after gaining access to god statues in a certain region. As of this review, only anemo and geo are available to the Traveler, but eventually, they will gain access to all elements.

Control in combat is pretty simple, with each character effectively controlling the same, with both a gamepad and keyboard+mouse being supported. They all have a standard attack with their weapon of choice in which the primary attack button can be held down to use a charged attack. Switching between characters is instant and plays a role in the depths of combat as well. With attacks feeling responsive and dodging feeling fluid, fights are engaging. Although one factor that needs to be fixed as soon as possible is how enemies are considered "out of bounds". If an enemy reaches that state, they will reset their position while gaining back all of their health. This state can commonly be achieved by using the Traveler's geo elemental skill, which places an obstacle that enemies can sometimes get stuck on.

There are also elemental skills and elemental bursts. An elemental skill’s only restriction is a cooldown, and hitting enemies with an elemental skill drops orbs which fill a character’s elemental burst. An elemental burst also has a cooldown, but can also only be used if the meter is filled. These abilities are huge and bombastic either dishing out tons of damage or granting tons of utility to better apply healing or effects.

Where the depth of the combat system comes from is how each element reacts to one another. The combination of elements spices up every encounter and is overall a good system. Every time an enemy is hit with an element, a debuff is applied. When you hit the same enemy with another element, a reaction occurs. Some elements react the same no matter what element combination, such as anemo and any primary element causes swirl, which spreads the primary element in an area of effect as well as dealing additional damage. Some reactions only come from certain combinations such as cryo+hydro inflicting freeze, or cryo+electro causing superconduct, which reduces the target’s physical damage resistance. Using these elements wisely is the key to maximizing your damage output. Some enemies are also immune or resistant to specific elements while being weak to others, so it isn’t always the best idea to stack your party with one element, even though you are given passive bonuses for having two or more of the same element in a party. 

Genshin Impact is very generous with its consumables in the beginning, granting you lots of items, money, and EXP material—but don’t go spending it all at once. It’s best to get a feel for the game and find 2-3 characters that you really like playing as. Once you start running low on items, it’s hard and time-consuming to get them back. It’s a dastardly trap that many free to play games implement and an incentive for players to spend money. It’s how gacha games make their money after all. Gacha games are pretty known to have some predatory practices which many mobile players are used to, but can be dangerous to people not used to them. Once you get to AR 7, you get to roll for other characters. There is a beginner banner that you can roll twenty times before it disappears, where you’re guaranteed at least two characters as well as a decent amount of weapons.

Genshin Impact
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay 16/20
Graphics 9/10
Sound 9/10
Stability 4/5
Controls 5/5

Morality Score - 77%
Violence 7.5/10
Language 7/10
Sexual Content 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural 6.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical 9/10

Since Genshin Impact is a free to play game, you’re also limited in how much you can grind. Most things worth grinding for cost resin, and you have up to 160 resin at a time. Resin restores slowly over the course of a day with it fully restoring in 24 hours. In the community, resin has been a hotly discussed topic, with some people saying it’s fine the way it is, while others say that it needs massive changes. You can restore resin with fragile resin (in which you only get a limited amount) or with primogems. But the issue with restoring with primogems is that not only can you use it to restore resin only 5 times a day (with each restore costing more and more), the gems are also used to roll for your characters or weapons. If you want to stay free to play, it becomes harder to do so the deeper you get into the game.

The multiplayer also leaves a lot to be desired. As the multiplayer was advertised, many people thought it would be a sprawling adventure with your buds and exploring the world. In actual execution, it is a very limited mode where each person can only access a specific amount of content. No story content can be accessed and depending on how many people are with you, you only have immediate access to one or two of your characters. You can swap out whom you play as, but only through the menu and when away from combat. The good thing about multiplayer is that people can be anywhere they want within the host’s world and they are not tethered to the host player like many co-op games. Overall, it does make the grind a bit more tolerable when you have friends to mess around with.

Genshin Impact does come with its fair share of moral warnings and concerns. It is a violent game, but not excessively so. All the human and human-shaped characters you face are defeated in a puff of smoke or disintegrate, to the point where the bandit/thief characters even smoke bomb their way out when defeated. In a contrast, the people of Tevyat love their alcohol and will take nearly any opportunity to consume it. It’s a pretty common topic of discussion and some characters are depicted or described as being intoxicated. The character Venti also loves his alcohol and although his young appearance makes one think that he participates in underage drinking, he’s actually a lot older than he appears. The main questline can be pretty lighthearted with plenty of silly moments, but the sidequests and lore can get grim in nature. One sidequest that stood out to me was a family driven to their untimely deaths due to their greed in finding hidden treasure, with one of the brothers committing fratricide. One story quest even shows the petrified remains of a dozen humans due to the actions of a god. Some supernatural elements are in play as well, such as the character Qiqi being a jiangshi or Chinese hopping vampire.

In terms of sexual content, none of it is explicit. Many characters are rather tame in their appearance. Just keep in mind what kind of game Genshin Impact is. Everyone knows in gacha games that sex sells, even if most won't admit it. Although miHoYo keeps it tame especially compared to some of the gacha out there, the (older) females all have their sexiness enunciated, such as wearing dresses and leggings that show off their legs and butt, form-fitting attire, and some females having their midriff showing. The women’s breasts seem to have a life of their own as they sway independently of the character’s actions. (Oh man, where has my life gone where I am talking about jiggle physics in a serious discussion?) Dialogue can get rather suggestive, especially from the characters Lisa and Ying’er. The former immediately starts hitting it off with you with her dialogue and voice lines being rather sensual. Lisa happens to be just as flirtatious towards the female traveler. I'm hesitant to label it as lesbian undertones as games that feature a playable avatar typically default to the male character, which happens to lead towards unfortunate implications when playing as a female. The latter, in a way, is more sexual—although it is played for laughs as it’s typically your character interpreting her sentences in the wrong way. When it comes to language, the only thing I really noticed was the usage of “hell”, but whether they were meaning it as the actual place or otherwise is hard to interpret. Tevyat is also a world where many gods and goddesses exist, and each region has a god or goddess that they worship. With many of the elements being related to a specific god or goddess, it’s safe to say that there is also supernatural activity at work.

When you think about it, the gacha concept can be considered a moral concern too as it really exists as a loophole to the gambling laws in Asian territories. Since you're guaranteed a prize or a reward at the end, it technically isn't gambling, but remains just as addicting. It can be easy to lose track of how much you spend as the constant rewards set off your dopamine receptors and the next thing you know is that you spent hundreds, thousands, or in extreme cases, tens of thousands. There have been many horror stories of a parent's kids racking up lots of charges on their accounts or banks locking down people's accounts due to their insane amounts of spending. If you do decide to spend money on a game such as this, only spend what you are comfortable not having.

I’m typically not a person who plays gacha games due to the nature of them, as well as most of them being on mobile devices (and I very rarely game on mobile devices). However, if more gacha games were like Genshin Impact, I would probably play them more. There is a lot that I like and a lot that I dislike about my experience. The story is compelling beneath its surface and the combat is simple yet engaging enough to keep me interested in future updates as I will come back to see how the story and lore unfold. The "carrot on a stick” progression does prevent me from going deeper, such as the “endgame” content being exhausting, and the multiplayer components left me disappointed. There’s a lot that I haven’t touched upon, but I don’t want this review to be 5,000+ words either, and I feel I grasped the most important aspects. Take your time with Genshin Impact. Absorb your surroundings as there is much to be enjoyed. As I said before, the budget of Genshin Impact was not wasted one bit and the amount of detail that went into most of its aspects (as well as its aggressive marketing campaign)—it’s no surprise miHoYo found nearly instantaneous success.

If you’re simply a free to play person like me, you’ll find yourself with anywhere between 30 to 60 hours of content before you're left with little to do or you reach the monotonous grind of the "endgame". (Major updates are stated to release every six weeks, with some of those updates introducing new regions or events.) If you do decide to play on mobile devices, make sure you’re using a high-end phone or tablet as this game eats away at the battery of anything weaker and makes it run super hot. Its moral warnings are there, but end up making the game a rather docile Teen rating. I doubt it will go anywhere drastic since it already has an ESRB rating. For people with more money than sense, just keep in mind that it is very easy to spend thousands on this experience and still not get what you want. As long as you have a good amount of self-control, I’d say Genshin Impact is worth the experience, even if it is for a short time.

 

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Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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